Nielsen’s Covid-19 latest: UK shoppers spent £160m less on Easter than in 2019

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UK shoppers spent £160 million less in supermarkets this Easter compared to 2019, despite sales going up by 8.9% compared to the same period last year, reveals new data released by Nielsen. 

This follows recent research from Nielsen which found that just 31%1 of households were planning to celebrate Easter with those they were in lockdown with – versus 44% of households who had planned to celebrate before the quarantine rules were set. This is as a result of the ‘lockdown’ measures implemented by the UK government, where UK residents are instructed to stay indoors or ‘social distance’ in order to reduce the worldwide spread of the coronavirus disease COVID-19.

However, despite the drop in Easter sales, Nielsen data for the week ending 11th April shows that consumers were still looking to celebrate the bank holiday weekend outdoors in their gardens.  Sales of bulbs and seeds were up 128% and hayfever medication was up 139% – an indicator that many were enjoying the beautiful weather. Nielsen also saw a significant increase in sales of beers, wines and spirits, which increased by 29% compared to the same week in 2019. The key drivers in this category came from the drinks many would have enjoyed over a bank holiday weekend in a pub garden, such as cider (77%), stout (73%) and lager (67%), as shoppers took the pub experience home. Moreover, accompanying mixers were up by 60%.

Nielsen data also shows that in the week ending 11th April 2020, UK shoppers spent £275 million more than the previous week. While shoppers continued to limit their shopping trips, after two weeks already spent in lockdown, many needed to restock on the essentials, such as frozen food (up by 32%) and ambient groceries – shelf stable food (+27%). Consumers weren’t just limiting themselves to essentials this time, however. As ‘lockdown’ became the new normal, customers looked to treat themselves, with impulse goods – such as chocolate and other snacks – increasing for the first time since ‘lockdown’ began. Chocolate, a typical Easter treat, was up by 46%, while impulse purchases across the board grew by 18%. 

As consumers become more settled into life in restricted living, Nielsen data shows that shoppers are continuing to seek out products and activities to keep themselves and their households entertained. Sales of computer games and software were up 140% versus the same week in 2019, top of the growth list for the third consecutive week.

Mike Watkins, head of retailer and business insight at Nielsen, said: “The COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown restrictions have led to an unusual Easter bank holiday weekend, as people across the country are secluded from the family and friends they might usually have celebrated with. However, it’s clear that UK consumers were still looking to enjoy the warm weather and bank holiday weekend, resulting in a surge in alcohol sales and impulse purchasing to enjoy in their homes or gardens.”

Watkins continues: “Looking ahead, we can expect weekly growths to begin to stabilise in a few weeks, though it’s evident that purchasing at supermarkets here in the UK and across Europe will be affected by how soon bars, restaurants and cafes reopen, and the extent to which consumers flock back to them.”